Randomized, Double Blind Clinical Trials – What they are and why they work

I really enjoyed reading Dr. Peter Bach’s article today in the NY Times Health Blog.

It succinctly sums up the full spectrum of what it is like supporting someone who is about to enroll into a cancer clinical trial.

My favorite sections are as follows:

The studies tweak what we do as doctors, sometimes finding a little more benefit achieved with a little less harm. More often than not, they just find out that the new approach did not work out.

Of course this reality — this arduous slog — doesn’t match how cancer research is presented to the public, which sees flashy headlines using words like “breakthrough” and “new hope.”

Each study was a small contribution, paving the way a few feet forward or shutting down a detour that went in the wrong direction. Over time, what they contributed has helped us get a little better each year at treating breast cancer.

[My wife] knew [her doctor] was asking her to do something for others even when she was overwhelmed by what was happening to her, to us. But it was the obvious choice, and she made it without hesitation, just as hundreds of thousands of women have before her.

Now, as she slept through another fitful night, she was helping to answer a question that would not matter to her, but would someday matter to a woman she would never meet.

Although many clinical trial patients are not motivated by altruism, my experience was that many cancer patients were. Most of today’s cancer treatments are here because of clinical trials. I recall my own mom telling me that my grandmother who I never got the chance to meet, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in the 50s, but all they treated her with was surgery, and eventually electroshock therapy because the cancer had spread to her brain. She died not long after her diagnosis.

My mom too was diagnosed with breast cancer more than a decade ago, but is now cured because she took drugs and received therapy that was invented and advanced through the clinical trials process. I am very pro clinical research, and although individuals may not receive direct benefit, many people down the road do.

For a listing of breast cancer clinical trials, please see the below:

[LIST_TRIALS condition=”breast cancer”]

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